Thursday, February 17, 2022

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami: The Tale of Toru

I'm a huge Haruki Murakami fan. I love Norwegian Wood. I REALLY love Kafka On The Shore. I love a lot of his short fiction too, and I annoyingly foist What I Talk About When I Talk About Running on all my running friends. 

And so when you tell people you're a huge Haruki Murakami fan, they're always like, "But bro, have you even read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle?" Until now, my answer was a sheepish no. But now I have! And I'm upset I put it off so long. It's freakin' brilliant.  

(Quick detour: Reading Murakami's opus gave me the occasion to revisit this post I wrote in 2011 about being a new Murakami fan. It cracked me up more than a little. I'm glad to see my stance on Amazon has remained consistent lo these 11 years. But my 11-years-ago self would be VERY disappointed in me if he knew it took me 11 years to finally get to Wind-Up Bird. Anyway, back to the post...)

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, if you're not familiar, is not about a bird (well, it's a little bit about a bird). But really, it's the story of a fellow named Toru Okada. (Toru is also the name of the narrator in Norwegian Wood, but that Toru is Toru Watanabe, so the Toru here is a different Toru. I think? But the fact that Murakami uses the same name is just another example of his unconventionality...or maybe it's a just an oversight? Or a coincidence? Or maybe it is the same person? Damn you, Murakami, for making me overthink everything! Or bless you, I'm not sure which.) 

So Toru is about as average as a guy can be. He's early 30s, a lawyer (though currently unemployed), married, and living a nice comfortable life. But then weird things start happening. People keep stopping by his house and telling him crazy stories —a guy tells him about his war experience in Manchuria, and a woman tells him about her experience as a prostitute.

And then his wife leaves him. And he spends some time in the bottom of a well contemplating life. And then his missing cat returns! And then things get even weirder. 

I mean, if you've read Murakami, you know that summarizing a plot is an exercise in futility. These novels have their own rules, their own logic, and occurrences and objects and dreams are symbols within metaphors wrapped in allusions. But then again, some things just are what they are (ie, sometimes the curtains were just f@$king blue, to recycle a meme I used writing about Kafka on the Shore.) 

Despite all that's going on here — fate vs. free will, the nature of reality, how we're connected to others, and so much more — this is a smooth, easy read. The No. 1 reason it took me so damn long to talk myself into reading this is that I had the (vastly mistaken) idea that Wind-Up Bird is difficult, a tough hang. It is not. It's a lot of fun. And I'd recommend it highly...whether or not you're an MFA bro. 

No comments:

Post a Comment